AllSportsTucson Phoenix Correspondent Brittany Bowyer
Brittany Bowyer is a freelance journalist who started her career as an intern for a small sports website back in 2015. Since then, she’s obtained her master’s degree in Sports Journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU and is in her fourth year of covering various levels of sports across a broad range of platforms in Arizona. You can follow her on twitter @bbowyer07
The Salpointe Catholic girls basketball team cruised to an easy 68-24 road victory over American Leadership Academy – Queen Creek on Thursday as the Lancers continue their quest to return to the playoffs. After a crushing loss in the quarterfinals of the playoff’s last year to the former powerhouse Shadow Mountain, Salpointe has unfinished business. Despite being fairly early in the season still, the Lancers appear to have all the necessary elements to make a championship run.
“We have depth, we have speed, we have size. We do have a lot of the parts, but we also are humble in understanding that we have a lot of improvement, and every time we take the court we’re trying to work hard,” Head coach Joseph Luevano said.
“We are just trying to control the things we can control, and I really think that will help us get to where we want this year,” Senior Jaya Nelson said.
Right from tip off, Salpointe brought the energy and intensity to the court, playing full-court press and establishing a tone right from the start. After quickly jumping out to an 8-0 lead, the Patriots were forced to call a timeout less than two minutes into the first quarter.
However, it was too late. The Lancers were already locked in the zone, and after allowing the Patriots to put up back-to-back buckets, they stormed back to go on a 17-point run to close out the quarter up 25-4.
As the second quarter unfolded, there was a glimmer of hope for the Patriots when McKenzie Skousen sank a 3, but the Lancers were quick to shut down their offense for the remainder of the half. Meanwhile for the Salpointe offense, fluid ball movement helped continuously open up players for shots and multiple offensive rebounds allowed for more second-chance points. At the half, the Lancers were leading the Patriots 44-7.
While ALA-Queen Creek worked to make some adjustments at halftime, the damage had already been done. Despite its best efforts, the Patriots continued to struggle under Salpointe’s dominating defense, putting up only nine points in the third quarter. After 24 minutes of play, the Lancers were on top 63-16.
Since the game was essentially sealed, Luevano realized this was an excellent opportunity for the bench players to gain experience and let them play most of the final quarter. They closed things out with a final score of 68-24.
Defensively, the Lancers played lights-out on the court tonight. Overall, they didn’t allow the Patriots to put up double digits in any quarter and didn’t allow any Patriot players to score more than eight points on the night.
“The aggressiveness and the team camaraderie has really built, and it’s been fun to have,” Luevano said.
“Our team has a lot of chemistry, more than other teams that I think we’ve played,” sophomore Bria Medina said.
Salpointe Catholic makes it 68-24 with just under a minute left in the game pic.twitter.com/5JKgYPXFr3
— Brittany Bowyer (@bbowyer07) February 5, 2021
For the Lancers, Nelson led the team in scoring with 20 points on the night.
“Just being able to be here and build this program with my fellow senior teammates, that plays a huge part in my leadership and making it into a winning program after I leave,” Nelson said.
Medina also had 13 points in the victory.
Other players like senior Madeline Namanny and junior Tessa Hastings brought the intensity, grit and aggression to the hardwood tonight and led by example when they helped set the tone.
Meanwhile, sophomore center Achol Magot provides the height and size they need in the paint to help with rebounding. At 6-foot-7, she’s much taller than most of her competitors.
“We have incredibly hard working athletes, and every time we take the court we aren’t just looking to work hard, we are trying to work hard to improve. Our kids have really bought into it this season, and I think the results are showing on the court,” Luevano said.
The Lancers improve to 5-0 overall while the Patriots drop to 2-4. In their only game in the Valley this season, Salpointe made a statement victory before returning to Tucson to face more tough local competition.
“There’s good basketball in Tucson, and I often feel it doesn’t get the respect it deserves,” Luevano said. “There are just tough games night in and night out.”
Even with the high level of competition on the court in Southern Arizona, Luevano says the Lancers are always looking to play in The Valley because of the experience it brings.
“We’re always looking to play Phoenix teams, because not only do we want to play tough competition… we want to play them here. It is different than playing in Tucson and we’re always looking for that challenge,” Luevano said.
“We’re mostly just excited to come (to the Phoenix area) and finally prove ourselves because we’re underrated. We’re underdogs, so we’re just trying to come up and do the best that we can and show them what’s up,” Nelson said.